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ASF and PEDV update

The gradual spread of African Swine Fever over the Russian borders and, latterly, into Lithuania and Poland, has led the Russian authorities to putting a ban on imports of EU pig meat into their market. In the US, the rapid spread of a disease previously unknown in their pig industry, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea, is now forecast to undermine the expected recovery in pig production.

The vulnerability of the global pig meat market to external factors, such as outbreaks of animal disease, has been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks.

The spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) beyond Russian borders and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus (PEDV) across most of the main pig producing areas of the US is already producing significant effects in the marketplace. Neither of these diseases has any implications for human health but both have a devastating commercial impact on farms where an outbreak occurs, frequently resulting in 100% mortality among certain categories of pigs.  

African Swine Fever is a highly contagious pig disease often resulting in nearly 100% mortality. The disease is spread directly via pig-to-pig contact or indirectly through equipment, lorries or people who have been working with pigs. Ticks or other insects may also spread ASF. Pigs may also contract the disease by eating pig meat products contaminated with the African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV). Although the ASFV can remain in pig products and the environment for a considerable time, it solely causes disease in pigs and does not present a health risk to humans.

The disease is endemic in a number of African countries. It has been recorded in a number of European countries but has been successfully eradicated, apart from the island of Sardinia.

A recent outbreak began in Georgia in 2007 and initially spread within Russian borders. More recently the disease has spread to a number of countries on Russian borders – Belarus and Ukraine. In January, ASF was detected in wild boar in Lithuania and, subsequently, in Poland. As both countries are EU Member States, the agreed protocols were put immediately in place to prevent further spread of the disease.

However, the Russian authorities quickly initiated a ban on all imports of pig meat from the EU. This action was adjudged to be wholly disproportionate by the EU authorities, who have been actively engaged in resolving the problem. The EU exported over 700,000 tonnes of pig meat and pig by-products to Russia during 2013, accounting for around a quarter of all exports outside the EU. These restrictions have already resulted in a decline in pig prices in most EU countries. At the time of writing, it was hoped that six EU countries (Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Holland and Denmark) would be able to resume supplies to the Russian market, providing they were able to supply the Russian authorities with evidence of adequate measures in place to prevent and contain any ASF outbreak.

ASF has never been recorded in a Danish pig. In serological tests undertaken by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration in 2011, no ASF antibodies were found in the 3,000 samples tested.

Denmark has a range of strict biosecurity measures in place to prevent the entry of ASF or other animal diseases into the country. This includes thorough cleaning and disinfection of lorries entering Denmark. The Danish Pig Research Centre recently re-issued detailed advice to farmers regarding the maintenance of biosecurity measures on their pig units, including recommendations on the construction of collection facilities for pigs and specific hygiene precautions to prevent the introduction of infectious diseases to the farm.

Although the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus was originally identified in Asia in the 1980s, it was unknown in the US pig industry until its existence was confirmed in Iowa in May last year. It is a highly contagious and virulent disease, especially in younger piglets, where 100% mortality is the norm. The usual route of infection is from animal to animal but it may also be spread by other indirect means, such as farm equipment, delivery vehicles and possibly via feed. Despite the efforts to intensify hygiene and biosecurity procedures, PEDV has now been recorded in 25 States and more recently three provinces in Canada. Unofficial estimates suggest that around four million pigs may have already died from the virus. Although a vaccine is now available, the PEDV outbreak has caused the USDA to revise down its forecasts for US pig production in 2014, with a consequent effect on quantities of pig meat becoming available for export.